The Trump presidency is, in large part, a reaction to perceived victimization. The idea that the media and establishment have long scorned and mistreated a segment of the American public helped elect Donald Trump. Then it birthed the tribalism that has given him a seemingly impenetrable and immovable base. Trump's supporters often side with the president because they've become convinced the other side is worse, is dishonest and has forfeited the moral high ground. And almost anything Trump does — even if the GOP base used to oppose it — is supported.
But tribalism can be tempting for everyone, and Trump's opponents are sometimes put in the position of taking up with people who provide a convenient cause or narrative. Even voices they once opposed can be embraced because of the common enemy. Slivers are overlooked in the name of combating the plank in the eye that is Trump.
There are limits to that approach, though. In recent months, a series of clearly imperfect messengers have emerged to prosecute the case against Trump. And as these messengers have lingered in the spotlight, their imperfections have increasingly been illuminated. It's difficult not to see the practical effect as one of redoubling Trump's base.
First came Michael Wolff, the author and journalistic huckster whose book making bold claims about what happened behind the scenes at the White House was irresistible for the left and the media alike. Ever since his book hit the shelves, though, the curtain has slowly but steadily dropped, and Wolff has revealed himself to be anything but a reputable and authoritative documentarian. He has even acknowledged that journalistic ethics aren't particularly important to him, saying recently that his job “has nothing to do with truth.”
Next came Stormy Daniels, the porn star with a tale to tell about Trump — if only he would let her. Arguably nobody has caused as many problems for Trump, given the situation has elevated to a raid of Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen. But lost in the very legitimate legal concerns about Cohen's $130,000 payment to Daniels is this fact: Whether Daniels and Trump ever had an affair is largely beside the point. Her role in this story is actually somewhat negligible at this point, legally speaking. We already know what she says happened.
Yet that hasn't stopped Daniels and especially her media-savvy attorney, Michael Avenatti, from being fixtures on cable news. Avenatti even went so far Tuesday as to wager Cohen would soon be indicted and eventually flip on Trump — which is pure trolling and speculation. He and Daniels insisted Tuesday that they aren't in it for the publicity — and if Daniels and her baby daughter were indeed threatened in 2011, that's clearly not okay — but you have to wonder whether a porn star and a press-thirsty lawyer constantly driving the narrative here is all that productive.
And the latest nominal momentary leader of the resistance is James B. Comey who, like Daniels, may have an ulterior motive or two here. The former FBI director is selling a book, but his media tour has been hampered by admitting politics may have impacted his decisions and appearing petty and overly salacious at times. Comey has dug at Trump's appearance and breathed life into the allegation involving Trump and Russian prostitutes in a Moscow hotel — without, apparently, any new evidence. Comey on Wednesday morning scoffed at the idea that he was being gratuitous by taking “shots” at Trump. “I didn't think of them as shots,” he told NBC News, “and I still don't.”
Some people — and Daniels and Comey certainly fit this description — are thrust into the spotlight. And both of them deserve to be heard given their roles in what could be illegal activity. They must be heard, in fact. But there are also diminishing returns as they press forward with their public efforts to prosecute the case against Trump (and perhaps promote themselves in the process). There is such thing as overexposure, and overexposure can certainly be unkind to the cause.
It's not as though Democrats have suddenly declared their undying affection for any of them — Comey, in particular, will probably never win their love, given his role in the 2016 election — but Trump's opponents can certainly demonstrate the kind of skepticism they believe is so absent in Trump's supporters. It was sorely lacking when Wolff's book was all the rage.